Simply switching from Oracle RAC to Amazon Aurora cut some 10-minute tasks to seven minutes. With additional SQL tuning, we were able to reduce some batch-processing times to less than one minute. Our basic policy now is to migrate everything to Amazon Aurora as-is.
Akira Arai and Tadashi Fujimoto System Development Department, MAGASeek Corporation

Founded in 2003 and based in Japan, MAGASeek Corporation operates a fashion e-commerce website. The website carries a range of apparel for men and women from 2,000 domestic and imported brands. In addition to this core business, MAGASeek Corporation also operates an e-commerce solutions business, a one-stop service for apparel makers that offers e-commerce site support for everything from construction to operation.

The central pillar of MAGASeek's strategy is creating more e-commerce sites to act as sales centers for diverse product ranges attuned to customer needs. For this strategy to succeed, the company needs to build and launch new e-commerce sites rapidly. As a result, the same rapid turnaround is required of the IT department, which is responsible for constructing and operating sites. The apparel e-commerce market has become fiercely competitive in recent years, with more and more competing sites offering cheap outlet or secondhand items. The ability to build highly competitive sites quickly and at minimal cost is vital.

MAGASeek previously used an on-premises IT infrastructure and, even in this on-premises environment, e-commerce sites took about two months to build after the decision to proceed was made. "We still got requests to build these sites, and particularly their IT infrastructure, even faster, so that more effort could be devoted to the content on them," says Akira Arai, manager and chief architect at MAGASeek.

The aging of MAGASeek's infrastructure brought further challenges. Even switching out the on-premises infrastructure as required could only improve speed so much. With software and middleware support contracts on the verge of expiration, MAGASeek was facing a series of cumbersome and expensive upgrades. "We also needed to be flexible enough to handle twice-yearly sales. Finding a way to deal with the spikes in system load during these sales was another major challenge for the IT department," says Tadashi Fujimoto, manager and chief network engineer at MAGASeek.

In autumn of 2015, MAGASeek began to explore whether to continue using an on-premises solution or migrate to a different environment. Time was of the essence: the support period for the server operating system used to run the company's Oracle database was due to expire at the end of March 2017.

The company had already begun using a hybrid solution for sales, combining on-premises infrastructure with the cloud to respond to server load spikes. Based on this experience, the decision was made to migrate from on-premises infrastructure to the cloud.

Because of the importance of the database to MAGASeek's IT infrastructure, smooth migration of the existing Oracle Database Real Application Cluster (RAC) environment was a key requirement when considering possible cloud services. At the time, Amazon Web Services (AWS) had just launched Amazon Aurora—a relational database engine that works on Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS)—in the Tokyo region. With the ability to use Amazon Aurora as the deciding factor, MAGASeek decided to migrate to the AWS Cloud.

"One unique feature of our system is that it handles more read-only operations than transactions," says Arai. "Optimizing for this in Oracle RAC took a lot of tuning and maintenance. While preparing for the migration, we considered using Amazon RDS for MySQL, but Amazon Aurora's extremely short replica lag makes scaling out read-only operations easy. It's also easier to administer, because each node doesn't have its own storage. Once testing confirmed that we could comfortably achieve the performance levels we wanted, our decision was made."

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At the end of March 2016, MAGASeek began the project of migrating to the AWS Cloud. The company started with applications, using AWS Database Migration Service (AWS DMS) to migrate its database infrastructure. MAGASeek expected the process to require up to four engineers, but with AWS DMS the company completed the migration with a team of just two. In the end, migrating the multiple-node Oracle RAC environment to a single Amazon Aurora cluster delivered processing performance that was as good as or better than the on-premises infrastructure. The company also no longer needed to maintain a separate read-only Oracle database to guarantee performance during peak load periods.

"AWS Database Migration Service not only makes it easy to migrate databases, it also lets you construct rehearsal environments quickly for repeated testing," says Arai. "Simply switching from Oracle RAC to Amazon Aurora cut some 10-minute tasks to seven minutes. With additional SQL tuning, we were able to reduce some batch processing times to less than one minute. Our basic policy now is to migrate everything to Amazon Aurora as-is. We've found that this is enough to improve the speed of various kinds of processing, and we believe that even faster speeds could be achieved."

The migration to Amazon Aurora alone resulted in tripled performance for some batch-processing jobs, as well. In MAGASeek's on-premises Oracle RAC environment, the number of client requests processed per second never exceeded 1,000, but on Amazon Aurora figures as high as around 1,200 have been recorded. In July 2017, MAGASeek held its first "Summer Sale" since the migration and experienced no problems, even during peak load times. "During sales, server load increases to several times its usual level, or even higher for some brands. As a result, sales used to be special events requiring significant advance preparations from the IT department. However, we don't expect anything other than our usual daily tasks to be necessary in the future, " says Fujimoto.

In operational terms, too, MAGASeek's old environment required time-consuming on-site work. With AWS, however, a single team member can handle most of the necessary work, allowing even Fujimoto to devote more time to professional development and gathering information on new technologies. "As we see it, AWS makes it possible for every engineer to become an architect," says Fujimoto. "If you just have the motivation, you can combine AWS services into a new setup and start learning about system optimization and other topics right away. Because AWS also reduces the burden of operational administration, we have been able to give our engineers the time they need to take on challenges like this."

MAGASeek considers this migration the first of three steps toward making full use of the AWS Cloud. The goal for this step is to migrate the existing environment to a new one, combining Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) with Elastic Load Balancing (ELB), Amazon Aurora, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Route 53 (Route 53), Amazon CloudWatch (CloudWatch), and other services. The next step is to unify infrastructure, language, and other elements on the AWS Cloud to create a standardized IT environment. The company expects to complete this milestone by spring 2018. Starting in 2018, MAGASeek will begin the third step in earnest: using managed services and serverless solutions such as AWS Lambda (Lambda) and Amazon Kinesis Streams (Kinesis Streams) to build a new infrastructure with the aim of automated operation.

MAGASeek has already made use of an AWS Enterprise Support plan during this migration, and the company plans to continue doing so for the remaining stages to help with cost optimization, advance review of plans for using serverless solutions, and other issues.

"After migrating to AWS, the company started holding internal workshops on making new ideas and service concepts a reality, with young staff members playing a key role. In my opinion, these new practices are another outcome of using AWS. I look forward to realizing the ideas generated in these workshops in conjunction with AWS, " says Arai.

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(From left) Akira Arai, manager and chief architect at MAGASeek, and Tadashi Fujimoto, manager and chief network engineer.

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